Serbia bans Kosovo karate squad from entering country

Serbia bans Kosovo karate squad from entering country

BELGRADE – Agence France-Presse
Serbia bans Kosovo karate squad from entering country

Serbia prevented the Kosovo karate squad from entering the country to participate in the European Championships, officials in Belgrade said on May 9.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade still does not recognize the separation.

Relations between the two nations, who fought an 18-month war in the late 1990s, remain tense. The former foes have to discuss the organization of ethnic Serb municipalities in Kosovo.

“Despite our will to be good hosts to participants in the European karate champignons, athletes from Kosovo will not be part of the competition,” Serbia’s government bureau for Kosovo said in a statement.

“Two groups of people who tried to enter Serbian territory were sent back” on May 8 evening and May 9 morning, it added.

The May 9-13 event is taking place in the northern town of Novi Sad.

Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj labelled the decision “unacceptable, terrible and without a precedent in the 21st century.”

“This will not help the normalisation of ties between the two countries,” he said in a statement.

“Sport is only sport and nothing else. You should know that you can arrest us only in your country,” Kosovo karateka Herolind Nishevci reacted on Twitter.

In March, Serbia has been expelled from the women’s under-20 handball World Cup qualification tournament after it cancelled a historic match against Kosovo over security fears.

Kosovo, only a partially-recognized state, is nonetheless a member of many international sports federations such as world football’s governing body FIFA and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

It was recognized by the International Olympic Committee in 2014.

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